Updated: Jun 10, 2022
As our society becomes more dependent on technology, personal information is more readily available than ever before. As a result, there is an urgent need to preserve the privacy of personal medical information.
HIPAA's (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) rules are designed to guarantee patients' privacy when healthcare providers interact with sensitive patient data. HIPAA establishes how health care providers and insurers may handle private patient data. Here are the three basic concepts of HIPAA:
1. The privacy of all health information must be respected.
2. Medical records are a private matter and everyone has a right to privacy.
3. Pre-existing conditions cannot be used as an excuse to deny coverage.
Understanding PHI (Protected Health Information) handling rules is a key part of HIPAA compliance. A risk analysis, which is a security plan outlining the particular technical, administrative, and physical protections required to protect PHI should be included in the HIPAA compliance process. A risk analysis can assist in determining where PHI is stored, who has access to it, how it is communicated, and what might happen if it gets into the wrong hands. Once the security plan is in place, covered entities and business associates must follow it and keep it up to date.
What is PHI?
Protected Health Information (PHI) is information about a person's past, present, or future physical or mental health that can be used to identify that person. The information can be categorized as:
2. Date of birth
4. Medical history
5. Social security number
6. Insurance information, etc.
Is HIPAA compliance required?
Anyone or any organization subject to HIPAA requirements must become HIPAA compliant. Individuals and businesses in the healthcare field must be HIPAA compliant. HIPAA requirements apply to two groups of organizations:
1. Covered entities
2. Business associates
Healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses are examples of covered entities including hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, doctors, nurses, dentists, optometrists, etc.
Business associates are third-party companies that a covered company contracts to do work for them. Business associates include IT consultants, lawyers, accountants, etc.
The common HIPAA violations
Any exploitation of PHI is considered a HIPAA violation. This can be done intentionally or unintentionally, and the consequences can range from minor to major, such as neglecting to file a required document to revealing PHI online respectively. Common HIPAA violations include failing to properly safeguard PHI, failing to provide timely breach notice; fraudulently collecting, using, or disclosing PHI; abuse of PHI, etc.
How to maintain HIPAA compliance
A comprehensive risk analysis is the best method to avoid HIPAA violations. Here are a few tips on how you can stay compliant with HIPAA.
Training of employees
HIPAA rules should be thoroughly understood by all employees. When it comes to protecting PHI, employees must be informed of their duties. Training the
m on HIPAA regulations will help guarantee they understand how to handle and secure any PHI they may come into touch with. Regular training and policy reviews will ensure that they are up to date.
All patient records should be backed up
For HIPAA compliance, all patient records must be backed up regularly. If data is lost due to an unforeseen incident, you will be able to recover the information from the backup instantly, reducing the risk of harm.
Have an incident response plan
Compliance with HIPAA regulations is made easier with a clear incident response plan. The incident response plan can assist you in dealing with unforeseen security incidents. It will also help to lessen any fines or penalties imposed for noncompliance owing to a lack of a response plan.
Establishing and enforcing a confidentiality agreement
The company should require all employees and contractors to sign a confidentiality agreement. It should be stipulated in the contract that they will not disclose any protected health information (PHI) except as required by their jobs.
Communicate only through secure methods
Always use secure communication methods when sending or receiving PHI. We recommend using encrypted email, password-protected file sharing, and secure messaging platforms.
Set up interdepartmental teams to deal with privacy issues
Set up interdepartmental teams to be responsible for resolving privacy issues within your organization if you have more than one department. The purpose of this is to ensure that everyone knows their responsibilities and that no department is left behind.
To protect the privacy, security, and integrity of protected health information, health care organizations must create a HIPAA compliance culture in their business practices. The term "protected health information" (PHI) refers to any demographic information that identifies a patient or client of an entity subject to HIPAA. Electronically transmitted, stored, or accessed protected health information also falls under HIPAA regulations and is known as ePHI.
Two types of organizations must be HIPAA compliant, namely Covered Entities and Business Associates. Essentially, a Covered Entity is a business that collects, creates, or transmits PHI electronically. Covered entities include health care organizations, health care providers, health care clearinghouses, and health insurance providers. Any organization that comes into touch with PHI in any way while providing work on behalf of a covered entity is considered a business associate. Business Associates include billing companies, third-party consultants, IT providers, shredding companies, physical storage providers, cloud storage providers, email hosting services, attorneys, accountants, etc.